Self-Efficacy and the Prediction of Domain-Specific Cognitive Abilities


  • This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Research Grant 410–2006–1795 to the first author.

concerning this article should be addressed to Sampo V. Paunonen, Department of Psychology, University of Western Ontario, London, ON N6A 5C2, Canada. E-mail:


ABSTRACT We evaluated predictors of performance in 4 specific cognitive ability domains: verbal, numerical, spatial, and mechanical. The predictors were individual differences in self-efficacy beliefs, self-enhancement tendencies, and cross-domain abilities. Our university students' beliefs about their verbal, numerical, and spatial capabilities correlated well with their actual performance on standardized tests (verbal r=.33, numerical r=.27, spatial r=.36). In contrast, the students' self-efficacy for mechanical tasks did relatively poorly in predicting mechanical test performance (r=.10). Most interesting were two other findings: (a) The best predictor of domain performance was level of cross-domain performance by far, even for mechanical tasks, and (b) self-enhancement tendencies added to cross-domain abilities and self-efficacy beliefs in the prediction of performance. The results are discussed in terms of possible mechanisms explaining how one's score on a maximal performance task can be affected by self-efficacy beliefs and self-enhancement tendencies.